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14 ideas for an outdoors microadventure in Scotland

Have you been longing for an adventure but don’t have a lot of time? You can still escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and have fun without travelling too far on a microadventure*. Make an ordinary day extra-ordinary and feel inspired, energised and enthused. Whether it is an after-work activity or an over-a-weekend experience, pitching a tent in nearby woods or exploring somewhere new – it’s really up to you what shape your microadventure will take.

Find 14 ideas for a microadventure in Scotland. Grab a friend, find a map and get out there and enjoy all of the rewards a local microadventure brings.

1. An after-dark adventure

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, Dumfries & Galloway

…because adventure doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Scotland boasts some of the clearest skies in Europe, which provide exceptional conditions for stargazing. Check out these dark sky escapes in south Scotland. Galloway Forest Park is UK’s first Dark Sky Park, while Hebridean island of Coll and the town of Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway also offer fantastic conditions for watching the wonders of the night sky. Have you tried it yet?

2. Unwind up amongst the glens of Angus

A group of walkers on a nature walk into Corrie Fee, Angus

Glen Clova, Angus

Relax amongst the natural beauty of the Angus Glens and breathe in the air of the hills. See if you can hear the distinctive calls of ospreys in Glen Isla, eagles in Glen Doll, or experience the lesser-known glens hidden away behind a maze of country roads.

3. Canoe from one city to another

The Falkirk Wheel © Richard Campbell

Canoe down the Forth & Clyde and Union canals from Pinkston Watersports in Glasgow city centre across the central belt to the heart of Edinburgh. The highlight is undoubtedly The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift that connects the two canals.

4. Visit a spooky place

Cawdor Castle, Highlands © VisitBritain / Andrew Pickett, AndrewPickettPhoto.com

Cawdor Castle, Highlands © VisitBritain / Andrew Pickett, AndrewPickettPhoto.com

Visit The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, a once bricked up street during an outbreak of plague; Crathes Castle near Banchory, which is haunted by the restless spirit of the Green Lady; or Culloden Battlefield outside Inverness, where cries, sword clashes and gunfire have all been heard… Do you dare?

5. Walk in ancient footprints

Castle Fraser, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Castle Fraser, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Follow a historic trail and hear stories of tribal Celts, Roman conquerors and brave heroes and heroines. On the Borders Abbeys Way, pass beautiful 12th century abbeys; follow the Victorian Heritage Trail to discover Royal Deeside and its royal connections; or head to Aberdeenshire where you can embark on Scotland’s only Castle Trail.

6. Enjoy a day kayaking in Shetland

Cliffs at Braewick, Shetland

Cliffs at Braewick, Shetland

Dip your paddles into the crystal-clear waters around Shetland‘s shores and kayak in secluded coves, arches, tunnels, concealed sea caves and sea stacks. Kayaking is a brilliant way to get into all those nooks and crannies, and to get up close to indigenous wildlife without disturbing it, including seals, otters and even whales. A memorable experience guaranteed!

7. Catch, cook and eat your own dinner

The Tullich Fishery, Ballater, The Cairngorms National Park

The Tullich Fishery, Ballater, The Cairngorms National Park © Jakub Iwanicki

It must be a great feeling to catch and cook your own food out in wild places. Round up a few friends and have a memorable experience involving a walk, foraging and cooking. It can be a spot of fishing or game hunting (permits required), collecting shellfish at Scotland’s coasts or even picking mushrooms or wildberries. Cook dinner and watch the sun set as its final light glimmers and brings the landscape aglow. And we’ve even got some handy recipes for you! Remember: do not eat any wild food unless you are  certain of its identification.

8. Wild swim in a loch or a river

The Falls of Bruar, near Pitlochry, Perthshire

he Falls of Bruar, near Pitlochry, Perthshire

Fancy an alfresco dip? There are thousands of lochs in Scotland, and open access laws mean you can swim in virtually all of them! Loch Caoldair, on the western edge of the Cairngorms, is hidden among birch woods, with a lovely little beach, but that’s just one of thousands of places. Be brave, breath deep and take the plunge – you won’t regret it.

9. Climb a Munro

The Glenfinnan Monument commemorating the 1745 uprising when the Jacobites raised the standard of Bonnie Prince Charlie here at the head of Loch Sheil

The Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Sheil, near Fort William, Highlands

With their commanding views of spectacular scenery, Scotland’s iconic Munros offer many rewarding walks and opportunities to explore some of the most beautiful and remote landscapes in Europe. Spend a day out in the towering mountains of Lochaber and Torridon in the West Highlands for a real sense of adventure. Or if you’re new to Munro bagging, check out these 11 breathtaking Munros suitable for beginners.

10. Go whale watching

Hebridean Whale Cruises on Gairloch, Highlands

Hebridean Whale Cruises on Gairloch, Highlands

Sightings of orcas, also known as killer whales, are becoming increasingly frequent in Scottish waters. They can be usually seen in pods of around eight. Other species of whales that are regularly spotted off Scotland’s shores include minke whales (with tens of thousands spotted in and around the North Sea each year), though sei, sperm, fin, northern bottlenose and long finned pilot whales have also been sighted. How is that for an adventure? Find more ideas for wildlife watching.

11. Enjoy a day mountain biking

Professional mountain biker Ruaridh Cunningham at 7stanes, Innerleithen

Mountain biker at 7stanes, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Catch a wee ferry boat from Port Appin and head over to the island of Lismore, to cycle the length of the island. Or take the ferry from Gallanach near Oban across to Kerrera and do the same – you can even incorporate fishing and wildlife watching as part of the trip. A short hop from Glasgow, the accessible pinnacle of Ben Lomond offers an absolute blast for mountain bikers, too! Find out more about mountain biking in Scotland.

Please check the service status for the ferries before you travel.

12. Discover carpets of snowdrops in winter or bluebells in spring

Snowdrops at Teasses Estate © Andrea Jones

Snowdrops at Teasses Estate © Andrea Jones

Drop into a garden near you to catch a glimpse of the wonderful snowdrops. You can observe the emergence of this dainty, white flower usually around February, and some of the best places to spot them include Cambo Estate and Teasses Estate in Fife; Castle Kennedy and Gardens in Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway; or Scone Palace, Perthshire to name just a few.

To see beautifully blooming bluebells head to Culzean Castle & Country Park (the garden is open, but the castle remains closed for now) in Ayrshire; House of Dun (only the garden and the estate are open) in Angus; Glen Finglas in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park; or Elgol on the Isle of Skye, with a view across Loch Scavaig towards the Black Cuillin hills. Remember: take pictures, not mementos!

13. Enjoy a spot of camping

Pickaquoy Caravan and Camping Site, Kirkwall, Orkney

Looking for somewhere to wake up and smell the daisies? Scotland boasts some fantastic campsites among wonderful mountain and coastal scenery or beautiful pine forests and even castle grounds. The Applecross Campsite rewards you with peace and tranquillity; there’s no mobile phone reception – just the views across to Skye, while at Rothiemurchus in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, you can choose from camping in amongst tall pines, beside the small river or on the island formed by the river.

Familiarise yourself with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

14. Final tip… Go off-grid for a day

The red roofed cottage on the edge of Loch Shieldaig

The red roofed cottage on the edge of Loch Shieldaig, Wester Ross, Highlands

Consider leaving your mobile phone behind. Unplug yourself from the modern world and enjoy a digital detox. Spend a day roaming hills and mountains in Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Morvern or Knoydart in the Lochaber area of the Highlands or up in the North Highlands. The sense of freedom and isolation (in a positive sense) you will feel is indescribable!

Have we awoken the adventurer in you yet?

* Microadventure is a term coined by National Geographic adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who defines microadventures as cheap, simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise.

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